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But on this November night it was someone else's dog — and someone else's $2,000 — on the line. Surrender wasn't an option.
By all accounts the two dogs fought until neither had anything left to give. They were lying on the floor of the pit exhausted, their jaws still locked on each other's bodies. Joseph Addison, the referee, remembers Heath and Mills trying to find a way out.
"They was asking to call it a draw, call it even," he remembers. "For some reason they wouldn't call it a draw. Whenever one goes that long — which is rare, I've never seen it — obviously both dogs are in great shape. Neither was giving an inch. Usually they say, 'I'm going to lose my dog, and you'll lose yours — let's stop it.'"
The detectives say the ailing owner's dog had the upper hand, and in his absence the decision to resign was Black's alone.
John Bacon, a spectator that night, remembers it differently.
"They let it go on and on until that dog just died," Bacon says. "It was ridiculous. They could have stopped it any minute, but they had $2,000 on the line. Both of those dogs was lying on the ground almost dead. They let it go on too long."
Instead of calling it quits, Black did something totally unexpected: He picked up his dying dog without a word and fled.
A posse quickly formed, bent on extracting the welsher's $2,000.
"We jumped up and chased him," Mills recounts. "His dog's hurt. There's only a few places where he can take his dog there over in Washington Park, and we knew he was going to stay close."
The chase ended at a house six blocks away from the fight site, with Black inside and Mills, Heath and their handler/informant in their SUV, along with several dogfighters.
"The other guys, they just wanna charge in there, kick Black's butt and take his money," Heath recalls. "We know very well that, this being Washington Park, there's going to be guns. In fact, Black came up to the porch with a gun in his hand."
"We're standing there, kind of waiting to see what they're going to do," Mills says. "We're certainly not going to charge the house, because we know if there's any exchange of anything, we're now the police and it's over, the investigation is done early on."
They sent in their informant to negotiate a truce. Black invited the man into the house and escorted him to the basement, where his dog lay on a countertop, barely alive. Meanwhile, the detectives were left on the front lawn to talk their angry associates into going home empty-handed — without blowing their cover. They succeeded.
Meanwhile the detectives were left on the front lawn to talk their angry associates into going home empty-handed. They succeeded without blowing their cover.
"I don't think [Black] had the money, to be honest with you," Mills says. "And if he's standing on the porch with a gun, it's not like we're going to go take it from him. Although that's what these guys would have done."
Heath says the wild night bolstered their standing in the dogfighting community.
"In the long run it helps us out," Heath says. "We got credibility from it. People called up and said, 'Yeah, I heard about that fight, I heard what he did to you. We don't agree with that either.' We'd find out where we were going to fight and say, 'If [Black] is going to be there, we're not coming.'"